Strindberg, August - Celestographs -2
Type of Spiritual Experience
Douglas Feuk - August Strindberg: Inferno Paintings and Pictures of Paradise (Copenhagen: Edition Bløndal, 1991).
Strinberg’s celestographs often look like nocturnal celestial scenes. But you could just as easily see gravel or dust, a close-ups of worn asphalt, or a patch of dark soil. Actually, the pictures are not totally unlike the topographical earth studies that much later, in the 1950s, engaged Jean Dubuffet, which he named texturologies. The greatness of Strindberg's photographs lies precisely in that they offer this double view, where starry sky and earthly matter seem to move within and through one another.
Today, science believes that this is actually so. … Almost every atom that makes up our material world of stones, plants, and human beings must once have been inside of exploding giant stars. This would mean, in a dizzyingly material sense, that we are actually made out of stardust. But more symbolically, the celestographs also seem to meditate on the links between the dark earth and the celestial light and life force. I understand them as a reverie on correspondences between micro- and macrocosmos—or between light and dark, high and low, gold and dirt.
Strindberg insisted that art should try to "imitate […] nature's way of creating," and in these celestographs the image and the world have approached each other to the extent that they more or less merge. Whatever the coincidences were that created these pictures, the subject matter appears less as a photographic image than as a "work" by nature itself.
The transforming processes of nature have continued to develop the photographs during the century that has passed since they were made. Thumbprints have left traces, and grease or ink stains on the back have in time wandered through the paper. Strangely enough, this has not ruined, but rather perfected these images of night—sometimes with light veils of bluish precipitates, sometimes with rusty brown oxidized spots that could possibly be interstellar dust clouds or just ordinary earthly skies lit up from below.
It is highly likely that these "clouds" or this "circular nebula" are details that Strindberg himself never saw, and that they only appeared much later. But it is just as likely that this was a metamorphosis that would have been to his taste.
A description of the experience